Nutrition Notes

Nutritional Support for Eye Health

Eye health may not be at the forefront of our minds until vision impairments and dysfunction develop. With the increasing rates of ocular diseases, including dry eye disease (DED), age-related macular degeneration (AMD), vision loss, glaucoma, cataracts, and diabetic retinopathy, eye-supportive strategies should be on everyone’s radar, especially in later adulthood.

According to the National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health, the risk of developing cataracts increases with each decade of life, starting at age 40. In addition, AMD is the leading cause of irreversible vision loss in people over age 50 in the industrialized world.

Environmental and Lifestyle Factors that Negatively Impact Eye Health

  • Overall increase in oxidative damage

  • Increased exposure to screen time (e.g., smartphones, TV, tablets)

  • Nutrient-poor diet

  • Smoking

  • Inflammatory, standard American, or Western-style diet

  • Excessive intake of alcohol

  • High blood sugar

  • Direct sunlight to the eyes

Managing Oxidative Stress to Maintain Eye Health

A significant underlying factor in the rising rates of eye disorders is the constant exposure to these various factors that enhance free radical production and inflammation in the retinal tissue. Decreased antioxidant potential and increased oxidative stress are linked to the progression of glaucoma. The numerous components of our eyes “are structurally and functionally linked by continuous epithelia and common nervous, endocrine, vascular, and immune systems,” which are directly connected to the external environment, making the ocular surface extremely vulnerable to damage. Moreover, aging is the most established risk factor for increased reactive oxygen species (ROS), as endogenous antioxidants decrease with age, making it even more critical to support eye health by maintaining a healthy lifestyle and diet.

Nutritional Support for Eye Health

In addition to reducing overall digital screen time, implementing dietary changes by avoiding refined sugars, inflammatory oils, and processed foods, controlling blood sugar levels, and incorporating specific nutritional components may help optimize eye health. Important dietary and supplemental considerations to support ocular health include:

In the Age-Related Eye Disease Study 2, supplementation with vitamins C and E, and β-carotene, zinc, lutein, and zeaxanthin reduced the risk of advanced AMD by more than 25%. Results from a clinical trial showed antioxidant supplementation of anthocyanosides, astaxanthin, and vitamins A, C, and E, along with other botanicals rich in phytonutrients reduced epithelial damage, enhanced lacrimal gland function, and stabilized tear film in patients with DED. Selenium, curcumin, vitamin B12, and other flavonoids are shown to have beneficial effects on ocular surface diseases.


By Caitlin Higgins, MS, CNS, LDN